Tacoma Corner Infielders For 2015

We continue our preview of possible 2015 Tacoma Rainiers players with a look at the potential corner infielders.

First base and third base are two of the most interesting story lines going into the Rainiers 2015 season because this is where the Mariners most advanced prospects currently play.

Both D.J. Peterson and Patrick Kivlehan are reportedly ready to make the jump to Triple-A, and both players count third base as their top position.*

Of course, neither of them are going to play third base in the major leagues for the Seattle Mariners – unless something totally unexpected (and probably bad) happens.

That being said, the Mariners have continued to allow both players to see substantial time at third base in addition to other positions. This is smart – defensive versatility is always valuable. Plus, what if Kyle Seager turns an ankle and hits the disabled list for two weeks? It’s always good to have depth.

Both Peterson and Kivlehan bat right-handed – something the Mariners have been looking for recently. Triple-A is one step from the majors, and if either of these guys looks like they are ready to hit in the big leagues at any time this summer, the M’s will find a place for them.

D.J. Peterson is considered the top upper-level hitting prospect in the Mariners system. He was the team’s first-round draft pick in 2013 – last year was his first full professional season, and he hit: .326-18-73 in 65 games at Advanced-A High Desert, and then .261-13-38 with an .808 OPS in 58 games at Double-A Jackson.

Between the two stops, Peterson played in 90 games at third base, and 19 games at first base.

Patrick Kivlehan has more Double-A experience than Peterson. He played in 34 games for High Desert before getting promoted to Jackson for 104 games. At Jackson he batted .300-11-68 with 23 doubles and seven triples, creating an OPS of .860.

Kivlehan also has more positional flexibility. At Jackson he played 58 games at third base, 26 games at first base, and… 22 games in the outfield. Most of his outfield work was in left field, but they even started him in center a few times – he’s known to be a good athlete, and as you probably know he played football at Rutgers for four years and is late to baseball.

It will be interesting to see if Kivlehan gets a lot of outfield time for Tacoma this season. It sure seems likely, because Tacoma has two more first basemen:

Ji-Man Choi is still on the Mariners 40-man roster, even though he had a disappointing 2014 season which included a PED suspension and an unproductive batting line. Yet he had always hit well in his career and a bounce-back in 2015 would not be a surprise. He’s still only 23 years old.

And then we have Jesus Montero, who actually generated a positive media report not long ago: apparently he has been working out in Arizona all winter and has lost 35 pounds. Montero played in 97 games for the Rainiers last year, hitting .286-17-74 with an .839 OPS. As of the end of his 2014 season, Montero still needed a lot of defensive work at first base.

Another player who has a history of playing third base but seems unlikely to play that spot much with the Rainiers is new addition Carlos Rivero. Rivero led the Venezuelan Winter League in home runs and seems to be a guy the Rainiers will want in the lineup every day. He was originally a shortstop – I find it interesting that he has played 603 career games at shortstop, 381 at third base, and zero at second base (where Tacoma could really use him).

So what we have here is five corner infielders who are nearly certain to open the season in Tacoma – and only three positions for them if you include the DH. Kivlehan and Rivero could get mixed into the outfield with some regularity. Perhaps Montero makes the big club as a bench bat. There could always be a trade or a DFA or something that causes a player to be removed from the mix.

Whatever happens, the sorting-out of this group will be one of the more interesting stories to follow during spring training.

Links:

  • Ryan Divish has a round-up of a bunch of Mariners tidbits from the last few days.
  • New Orleans manager Andy Haines worked in the Arizona Fall League where they tried pitch clocks for the first time. He answers some questions here – he’s not a big fan.
  • The Texas Rangers improved by trading for Yovanny Gallardo. The deal has PCL ramifications: by trading away Gallardo, the Brewers opened up a rotation spot for 2014 PCL Pitcher of the Year Jimmy Nelson. The Brewers received an actual brewer in the deal.
  • The Nashville Sounds are moving into a new ballpark this year, so they freshened-up their logos a little bit. Check it out.
  • PCL mainstay and one-time Rainiers Killer Trent Oeltjen announced his retirement from baseball.
  • Over in the International League, the Durham Bulls announced Jared Sandberg as their new manager. Sandberg is from Olympia and graduated from Capital High School. Former Rainiers manager and Mariners third base coach Dave Myers will continue as Durham’s hitting coach.

We’ll be back with a new post on Friday with all of the Triple-A news to come out of the Mariners Pre Spring Training Media Luncheon (which is held Thursday).

* I should probably clear this up: previously on this blog I have expressed doubts that Peterson would open the season in Tacoma. However, after talking with a number of people in the last few months, I now believe that he will likely open the season with the Rainiers.

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